Today’s match-up is a true battle of the sentimental holiday titans! Love, Actually—Richard Curtis’s cinematic charmer—became an instant festive fave (at least on this side of the pond) at the 2003 box office. With a top-notch cast of mostly British thesps and a heartwarming and uplifting (if overly sugary) message, it’s no surprise that the movie has gone on to air seemingly 24/7 come each Christmas time. It’s up against a paragon of holiday fare: It’s a Wonderful Life. Considered by Rotten Tomatoes as “the holiday classic to define all holiday classics,” Frank Capra’s inspirational small-town tale has been imitated many times over but never equalled. Most of us have seen it so many times, we could recite it word for word if pressed.
But who will win out in this Ultimate Christmas Movie Showdown of your favourites: a festive modern London or a snowy and nostalgia-filled Bedford Falls? Read up on the two contenders below—then make your choice and vote!
Round of 16 – MATCH 7:
Love, Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’s crowd-pleaser is full of cliches from top to bottom, but it doesn’t follow that Love, Actually is a bad movie. It has decidedly less-than-stellar storylines, that’s true—the less said about the American stunners enchanted by an English accent, the better—but it also has some pretty great ones. Okay, maybe great is pushing it. But the film is cast so well that it’s easy to look past the less original aspects and focus on the good, like possibly the best British cast this side of Hogwarts: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Andrew Lincoln, and Liam Neeson.
With a gorgeous score courtesy of Craig Armstrong, a positively festive London setting, and a heart-warming core message that love is all around, Love, Actually has rightly become a holiday tradition for movie fans looking for some genuine, cozy cinematic comfort. – Emma Badame
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
The timeless tale of George Bailey (James Stewart) begins with our hero planning to end it all on Christmas Eve. Yet for a Christmas movie with an unusually dark premise, few films tug at the heart as warmly as It’s a Wonderful Life does. George’s guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and shows him how his family and the town of Bedford Falls would suffer in his absence. In doing so, and contrasting George’s radiant spirit with the coldness of his greedy foe Mr. Potter, the film reminds audiences that one should not define success or happiness by material wealth.
Driven by Stewart’s iconic performance as a middle-class American everyman who simply wants the best for his family, It’s a Wonderful Life delivers an enduring message about the value of family and community. It’s a Wonderful Life is as unabashedly sentimental as it sounds, but the film’s earnestness is as comforting as a cup of mulled wine by a fire. Its message on kindness and neighbourly cheer is more important than ever as we all hunker down with a “we’re all in this together” mindset for the cold months ahead.
Perhaps more powerfully than it does every year, It’s a Wonderful Life should reaffirm its status as the ultimate Christmas movie. 2020 might yield a difficult holiday season for many of us when COVID limits gathering with family and friends. For anyone feeling lonely these holiday, the film should provide a reassuring reminder that “social distancing” is just a state of mind. – Pat Mullen
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Voting ends December 17 at 11:59 EST.
The elimination showdown runs from December 1 until the 23, with the Ultimate Christmas Movie being unveiled on Christmas Eve! You can vote here, on Twitter, or on Instagram. Check out where things stand and then tune in tomorrow for a new face off…